I’ve been putting off writing a review of the eTikit because there is so much to discuss I just never seemed to have a whole day free to write it down. So I’ve decided to break the review down into 2 or 3 parts that I can blast off in a couple hours each. Here is part 1!
Production Prototype Disclaimer
The two eTikit kits I’ve been testing with help from my buddy Kurt are not production items. Ken is still making changes and refining the kits so please keep that in mind. Each individual component is a production item it’s just how it will all go together and the selection of components that is being worked on at this point. As an example after our testing we’ve recommended that the batteries not be mounted on the rear rack or seatpost – instead they’ll be mounted low on the stem or using the front rack. Ken is very keen on producing a high quality product and he’s eager to make changes that will improve his eTikit kits.
- standard Bike Friday Tikit folding bike [any size]
- specialized electric hub motor with 70mm dropout spacing
- handlebar mounted throttle
- speed controller [takes throttle input and feeds appropriate power from battery to motor]
- battery with case
Bike Friday Tikit
Any standard Bike Friday Tikit can be electrified regardless of age or specification. The only issue that could cause a problem is if you have a custom Tikit with front disc brake. Other than that the eTikit kit simply replaces the original front wheel with a specially built hub electric hub motor and then the battery and other components are mounted to the frame. One thing I like about the eTikit kit is that since it uses a standard Tikit the whole kit can easily be removed if you want to ride your Tikit without e-assist. Using the front mounted battery configuration we recommend the whole process should take 5mins and the only thing left on your Tikit would be the throttle and a short section of wire. I should also note that Ken at Power in Motion is undertaking this project in partnership with Bike Friday so there should be no impact on your bike’s warranty.
Our eTikit kits came in two configurations:
- 206 Hub Motor – high speed unit [over 30kph]
- 209 Hub Motor – standard unit [30kph max]
Both are special brushless/gearless electric motors that are manufactured for the 70mm front dropout spacing used on the Tikit and other folding bikes. The high speed 206 version is very special and only 4 exist in the world as a special order for Power in Motion. I had the high speed motor on the eTikit I tested and it would hit 35kph on flat ground without pedaling and with some easy pedaling I could get over 40kph.
These motors weight ~7lbs and can be run at 36 – 48 volts. Anticipated service internals is approximately 2 years when the bearings will have to be replaced. Given the short spokes the wheels themselves will be very durable, however, depending on weather and your braking habits rims will need to be replaced every 1 to 3 years.
The throttle takes input from the rider and tells the speed controller how much power to send to the motor which determines the speed of the bike. We started with thumb actuated throttles on the right side of the bar, but eventually decided a left side mounted twist type throttle so we could shift with the right hand as we accelerated and used the left hand to control the hub motor. I also found the thumb throttle was tiring to use for long periods of time. This is a personal preference thing and the throttles are not expensive so it may be worth trying out a couple options.
If you use the twist throttle you need to ensure it is not pressed up against anything [brake lever, bell, etc...] or it can stick on [don't ask!] if you have a long flat empty commute you can use this as a sort of cruise control, but when you let go of the throttle the motor won’t stop so be aware of that implication.
I don’t have much to say about the speed controller. It is the small black plastic box shown in the photo above just below the battery bag. We’ve suggested to Ken that the speed controller be mounted inside the battery case/bag as the user doesn’t need access to it and it will simplify installation. During our test both speed controllers worked fine and needed no attention.
We had two batteries on our test bikes. I had the larger 8.2 amp hour battery with the 206 high speed motor and Kurt had the 5.6 amp hour battery with the 209 motor. The higher speed motor draws more power and needs a bigger battery to achieve a decent range. Both batteries were sealed lithium-ion units and came with chargers. Ken provided a couple bags to allow the batteries to be mounted on the Tikit. The batteries could also be mounted in hard cases depending on the owners setup preferences.
- 37v, 5.6Ah, weight = 3lbs, charge time = ~2.8hrs.
- 37v, 8.2Ah, weight = 4.6lbs, charge time = ~4.1hrs
- 37v, 10.5Ah, weight = 6.2lbs, charge time = ~5.2hrs
- Li-Ion chemistry
- each battery has a service life of 600 cycles
- a faster 4amp charger can be used which would reduce times above by 50%
The wiring harness used for the eTikit is a robust high quality unit that will take lots of abuse. If you use a front mounted battery configuration as we recommend the extremely short cable runs mean that you should never have a cable related problem due to wear and tear when folding. If you choose to put the battery under the seat or on the rear rack you should get lots of use out of your eTikit without problems, but the wiring is subject to a lot more mechanical stress and potential damage in these locations.
The wiring and connectors are water resistant so you won’t have any issues running the eTikit in the rain. Naturally you should not submerge the hub motor or any other component of the eTikit kit underwater.
High Speed eTikit Setup
- 206 high speed hub motor
- thumb throttle on right side of bars
- 8.2Ah battery mounted on rear rack with speed controller
- large stock Tikit [other than eTikit items]
- stock Schwalbe Marathon tires
High Speed eTikit Test Results
By the numbers:
- eTikit [size large] weight as tested = 42lbs
- Weight of eTikit kit components = 14lbs
- rider weight = 175lbs
- air temp = -5 to 15 deg C [23 to 59 deg F]
- max speed on flats no pedaling = 35kph [21.7mph]
- max speed up moderate sustained hill = 19kph [11.8mph]
- max range on full charge = 18km/11.2miles [flat ground]
- time to charge 8.2Ah battery from empty using standard 2 amp charger = ~4hrs
- cost of kit as tested = $850 – $950
With the rear mounted battery the eTikit handled just like my Tikit does. That means slightly faster than a 700c bike and excellent for urban road and MUP use. I didn’t try the battery in any other location, but having used my Tikit with front panniers I expect the eTikit will exhibit slightly slower steering making it handle pretty much the same as a 700c bike. The eTikit is heavier than my Tikit, but I didn’t really notice this when riding under e-assist as I remained seated.
The rear mounted battery makes folding the eTikit a pain. You have to remove the battery pack first and then fold the eTikit. It works and I did this a few times when necessary, but it wasn’t slick and fast like my hyperfold Tikit. Rolling the folded eTikit was no problem and was preferable to lifting it due to the extra weight. Even lifting the eTikit by the saddle was problematic with the rear mounted battery as the extra weight made the bike fold when you may have wanted to just reposition the rear wheel. As a result I can’t recommend the rear rack mounted battery position unless you don’t need to fold your eTikit.
I would note that if you mount the battery under the seat or above the front wheel the fold is not impacted and you don’t have to remove the battery.
The high speed [206 motor] does give you the benefit of an excellent high speed of 35kph without pedaling and over 40kph with some easy pedaling. The unit does not have a lot of torque so I found it best to pedal away from a stop while giving the eTikit full throttle. Once up to speed I often stopped pedaling and enjoyed the ride. The low torque is good in that the e-assist provides a firm, but controllable pull. It won’t do something so powerful or fast that you crash or need to worry about the e-assist. I did not have any issues with the e-assist losing traction, but I only used the eTikit on paved roads and paved MUPs.
I was able to climb a moderately steep hill at 19kph using only the e-assist after I pedaled to get the bike up to speed. You will find that due to the low torque of the 206 motor you won’t get much help from it on very steep hills.
I was able to get 18kms from a full charge of the 8.2Ah battery using mostly e-assist and minimal pedaling on a mostly flat route. Note that due to the low torque I tend to just give full throttle most of the time which may not be the most efficient way to use this system. You can extend the range of your eTikit by pedaling more and using the e-assist less. Being a pedal to the metal kind of guy I didn’t try that strategy. If I was buying an eTikit I’d buy a big enough battery to run under 100% e-assist for my entire commute.
Note my testing occurred during late winter/early spring conditions. Temperatures ranged from cold to cool and I encountered rain several times. The eTikit worked fine in these conditions, but be aware that batteries don’t work as well when cool so I probably didn’t get as much range on my eTikit as I would have running the same test in the summer.
You’ll notice in some of the photos of the battery bag that there is a key hanging off the right front corner. This key allows you to turn off the e-assist when you aren’t going to use it. This is an excellent safety feature that I recommend you use – especially if you have kids.
I experienced a vibration at a specific speed [~20kph] on my eTikit. I didn’t expend the effort to track it down and correct it. It’s coming from the rack/fenders, but lasts on a moment as you accelerate through that speed range. If this was my bike I’d spend the time to sort out the issue.
No E-assist Riding
You can ride the eTikit without e-assist if needed. Due to the extra weight and drag from the hub motor this is not recommended. It’s a lot of work. If your battery dies unexpectedly – no worries you’ll make it home, but if you want to go out for a Sunday pedal power only ride with the family you are not going to enjoying the ride.
This is one of the great things about a front mounted battery. You can swap in your normal front Tikit wheel and ditch the battery in less than 5 mins. Your eTikit will be transformed into a fun pedaling normal Tikit and can be switched back just as easily.
Charging was easy – just plug in the battery and wait ~3-5hrs for a green light depending on battery capacity. You can reduce the charging time by 50% if you use a faster 4amp charger Ken has available. As I noted above I would buy a big enough battery to last your entire commute/ride. Note that you can charge a battery at work and at home so that it only has to last you 50% of your commute or you could buy two batteries and leave one at each end of your commute and recharge both at night. Batteries are sealed and require no maintenance. Each will last approximately 600 cycles before it needs to be replaced.
Since my typical commute is only a few kms downtown and I generally only run errands in my neighbourhood the 8.2Ah battery was more than enough for my needs. I only needed charge it every other day or every 3rd day if I did fewer errands.
Since these kits have not been finalized the costs below are only approximations are subject to change:
- $750-$850 for standard kit [209 motor & 5.6Ah battery]
- 206 motor is not available yet, but it will cost the same as the standard 209 motor
- upgrading to the 8.2Ah battery will be +$100
- upgrading to the 10.5Ah battery will be +$200
- the 4 amp fast charger will cost more, but I don’t have a price
- kit cost will include throttle, speed controller, wiring harness and battery storage bag
What I’d change:
- even if I’m not pedaling I’d rather have Greenspeed Scorchers on my eTikit for the more comfortable ride and better battery life due to lower rolling resistance.
- I would definitely move the battery to the top of my 2 sided pannier rack to reduce complexity and the long wiring harness.
- I would swap my bike back to a regular Tikit [remove hub motor and battery] if I wanted to pedal it rather than simply turn off the e-assist.
- I’d wire in a LED headlight to the main battery so I could commute with one battery to charge.
The high speed eTikit can sustain speeds of over 40kph with a bit of pedaling from the rider. The eTikit will start to roll as soon as the throttle is activated. For these reasons I suggest you take extra care when riding it.
- wear a helmet
- wear eye protection
- wear gloves
- turn the e-assist off whenever you are not using it to avoid inadvertent activation.
- if you have kids explain to them the eTikit can be dangerous and take the e-assist key with you when you are not with the bike.
- ride at an appropriate speed for conditions and traffic. The eTikit won’t slow down any faster than a normal bike in an emergency situation.
I’ll be posting a discussion of the 209 standard motor eTikit kit that Kurt tested as well as a bit of comparison between the two over the next week or so.